A clear solution to spooky fish
After watching this mombo 10.75-inch bluegill for 20-minutes, I returned with a longer rod and small earthworm to entice him to strike ... what a fish! (Jim Gronaw photo)

Ahhhh yeeesss! Clear water! What a wonderful thing!

Don't you just love the way you can see right to the bottom in 10 feet of water? And how about the detail of all the structure, and the fish, and the action of the lure, and the way all the fish are so spooky and all!


Hold on there! Who wants spooky fish? And it seems that they catch on quick to our presentations. Is crystal clear water and fishing conditions really as cool as it sounds?

Actually, clear water fishing conditions, no matter what the specie, can make fishing really tough, even next to impossible, as the fish seemed to be tuned into just about every thing out there. But there are ways to combat these difficult circumstances.

This year, I have been fishing a couple of lakes and quarries that are, indeed, crystal clear and the fish are way spooky. Right off the bat, when you can see fish in the water you think you must be able to catch them. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I have found out real quick that it just isn't like fishing in other bodies of water that have more color to them.

Recently, I have observed big spawning bluegills in a local quarry that were bedding in about 8 feet of ultra clear water. Although hectic and aggressive, those active fish caught on quickly to my various live bait offerings of nightcrawlers and earthworms. Although I managed to get the 8- to 9-inch fish I could actually see, I would get the occasional glimpse of much larger, say 10-inch plus, bluegills that would briefly hover then scamper back out of view.

So, I made a game plan for success.

I cautiously wet-waded up as close as I could to the bedding bluegills and bass and watched them for about 20 minutes. I was wearing a camo top and olive shorts and remained as still as I could, just watching their activity and actions. I found that as long as I made no sudden movements the fish simply ignored me and apparently took me as part of the environment after a few minutes. Fun to watch and educational, I later returned with a longer 9-foot spinning rod and clear 2-pound test for longer deliveries to spooky, yet active fish.

The results were excellent, as I down-sized to small earthworms and a tiny split-shot for a couple dozen big bluegills and a few bonus bass. By making long and accurate casts I was able to catch fish and not spook the remaining fish.

Sooner or later, we are all going to encounter some conditions that call for different stategies due to clear water. Here are just a few tips that may help you when super clear water frustrates you ...

-Use low visibility lines. Sure, I like to use fluorescent monos when I can, especially given that my eyesight isn't what it used to be. Often, clear monos are the choice, and if at all possible, scale down your pound test to the lightest that you can get away with under the conditions. I tend to stay away from braids in thin water applications as most can be easily seen in gin-clear water.

-Make longer casts. With today's 8-, 10- or even 12-foot lengths for spinning rods, an angler can make amazingly long casts that much shorter rods would never come close to. The further you can keep yourself from the fish, the less likely you are to spook them. I currently use several 8 to 11 foot models from Bass Pros Wally Marshall Crappie Fishing lineup for deliveries of small jigs, crankbaits or livebait presentations. Coupled with lower pound test, limp monos, you'll find that you can put a bait a lot farther out there than before.

-Use polarized glasses. As time-honored and solid as this little piece of advice is, there are still many anglers who will not wear them! Amazing! They'd rather wear a $150 pair of ultra-cool shades that look spiffy at the lounge but won't let them see the fish they might be missing.

-Wear blending clothes. In other words, even go to wearing camo clothing if you are approaching spooky fish in clear conditions. Again, you don't have to break the bank on this one as any blending of surrounding colors will help you get within casting reach of your specie.

-Use surface wind and chop to your advantage. That's right, if there is a mild or even heavier breeze blowing you can often use it in your favor. It will break up your outline and likely permit you to get just a little bit closer to those spooky trout or smallmouths at the base or head of that clear pool.

-Fish at night. Where and when allowed, night time fishing can sometimes all but cancel the evils of clear water difficulties. Be sure to thoroughly learn and be aware of the environment and surroundings before venturing out after hours.


-Fish on overcast days. Sometimes, fish lose a little off their guard when a cloudy or overcast day is in the mix. Take advantage of these times and try to be on the water when the bite is hot. You may not even have an issue with thin water during these times.

-Use live bait. I know, it's a dirty word to some anglers, but live nightcrawlers, minnows or other critters can often put the odds way in your favor if you fish them naturally with little or no weight. Being of a panfish mind, I often lean on live bait to make my day a success. Double that for clear water scenarios.

-Watch what the fish are doing. Perhaps the biggest mistake many of us make, to include myself, is that we just don't always take the time to observe what the fish are really doing. Yes, when I see a big bass or trout cruising I immmediately want to launch a lure or bait right on top of it! How foolish of me! It's tough, but we all might learn a little more, and catch a lot more, if we would take the time to be observers of fish.

Indeed, there are many other ways to deal with super clear water conditions and spooky fish and not enough room to list them all here.

But I hope this serves as a guideline for those situations that we are all bound to run into.